Business Insider Edition

An Oculus cofounder was accused of sexually assaulting a woman while she was wearing a VR headset during a demo

Kevin Webb , Business Insider US
 Aug 29, 2019, 09:54 AM
Michael Antonov delivering a presentation for Oculus at the 2013 Game Developers Conference.
Oculus/Game Developers Conference
  • Oculus cofounder Michael Antonov has been accused of reaching beneath a woman's skirt during a private VR demo following an event at the 2016 Game Developers Conference.
  • Autumn Rose Taylor, a marketing director currently working in the virtual reality industry, said Antonov invited her to a private VR demo while she was a college student, where he then inappropriately touched her underneath her skirt without her permission while she was wearing a VR headset.
  • Taylor said the incident has made her anxious to attend Oculus events; Antonov was Oculus's chief software architect but he left the Facebook-owned company earlier this year.
  • For more stories go to www.businessinsider.co.za.

One of Oculus's cofounders has been accused of sexual assault by a woman in the virtual reality industry. Autumn Rose Taylor, Marketing Director for Owlchemy Labs, said that Michael Antonov reached beneath her skirt and touched her inappropriately while she was wearing a VR headset during a private demo several years ago.

In a series of tweets about "an important person that I admired," Taylor said a founder of a well-known VR hardware company invited her to a private demo at his apartment during the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco when she was a college student. She said the man put his hand under her skirt and touched her inappropriately while she was trying the demo.

Though Taylor left Michael Antonov's name out of her initial thread, she named him as the subject of her tweets in a follow-up message several hours later.

In a separate statement to Business Insider Taylor confirmed that she met Antonov at an industry afterparty at the 2016 Game Developer's conference. She said it was her first major industry event and she was excited to meet one of Oculus's cofounders - she had gotten her start in VR development using the Oculus Rift DK2. The consumer version of the Rift was scheduled for release a weeks after GDC, and Taylor said Antonov offered to give her a private preview of the device.

"He offered to show me unreleased demos and games slated to launch with the Rift later that month," Taylor said. "I didn't think this was odd- Just the day prior, I tried a demo in the hotel room of someone I met at another VR mixer. It was a normal demo, nothing strange. Being new to the industry, I thought this was normal."

After being touched by Antonov, Taylor said she tried to keep her physical distance from him while avoiding eye contact and giving few responses in conversation. Though Taylor said she initially felt too afraid to leave, she left and returned to her hotel room at the first opportunity.

"I felt uncomfortable and scared, but was afraid to refuse his advances- after all, he was a co-founder and executive for one of the biggest VR companies in the world," Taylor said in her statement. "I was afraid of being blacklisted from the industry I had just joined and was so excited to be a part of. I was afraid of potentially severing a relationship between the VR company I worked for and Oculus. I was just… so afraid."

Taylor told Busines Insider that she was motivated to speak about her experience after seeing multiple women in the gaming industry share their encounters with sexually abusive men. At least three other men in the gaming industry were accused of sexual misconduct on Wednesday.

Business Insider reached out to Antonov through LinkedIn and Facebook Messenger for comment, but has not heard back.

Antonov left Oculus and Facebook earlier this year, Facebook confirmed to Business Insider. He is one of Oculus's original cofounders along with Palmer Luckey, Nate Mitchell, Brendan Iribe, and Andrew Scott Reisse. Oculus launched with a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 and was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $2.3 billion (R35 billion). Mitchell announced his departure from Facebook earlier this month, the last of the five cofounders to leave.

Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's Vice President of AR and VR, replied to Taylor's allegations on Twitter and said he had asked internally about how the allegations against Antonov had been handled in the past. Bosworth was named VP of Facebook's AR/VR and Oculus division last year and said he would take personal accountability for the company's culture moving forward.

"These stories are sickening. I'm sorry it happened then and that you have to face the trauma again now," Bosworth wrote. "I took over our AR/VR and Oculus team in 2018. I do not accept this behavior. I've asked to understand how the situations were handled that have been brought up."

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